Let's talk about breakfast.
I am very passionate about the first meal of the day, often going to bed in anticipation of it, dreaming of hot waffles and eggs and orange juice and a steamy cup of coffee.
Reality is often far from that, as my love for breakfast does not extend to a general love for the morning hours. I am not someone who can wake before the sun, refreshed and ready to take on the day. I am someone who snoozes an alarm 12 times and then gets frazzled when there's no milk in the fridge for my Flax Flakes.
But it's always a priority for me, mostly because my stomach will literally start growling by 9:30 a.m. if it's not full of food. So my interest was piqued by a recent study the New York Times highlighted that suggested we should be eating our biggest meal in the morning and our smallest meal at night.
According to the Times: "A recent review of the dietary patterns of 50,000 adults who are Seventh Day Adventists over seven years provides the latest evidence suggesting that we should front-load our calories early in the day to jump-start our metabolisms and prevent obesity, starting with a robust breakfast and tapering off to a smaller lunch and light supper, or no supper at all. "
The American Heart Association has even gone so far as to say that when we eat our meals may be an important factor in reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In particular, they "issued a scientific statement emphasizing that skipping breakfast — which 20 to 30 percent of American adults do regularly — is linked to a higher risk of obesity and impaired glucose metabolism or diabetes."
I'm trying to work larger breakfasts into my daily routine, and have noticed it helps curb my snacking a lot. But for those times when a long, luxurious breakfast isn't in the cards, it's still wise to get something into your system. Something quick but filling, healthy but able to satisfy the most bleary-eyed among us.
Enter the smoothie.
Specifically, this Strawberry Banana Smoothie, which has become my morning go-to.
Smoothies don't have the greatest reputation healthwise; they are prone to being icy sugar bombs that fill you up for about 10 minutes.
But this smoothie aims to do better, with help from a couple key ingredients. The first: kefir.
It's a fermented product that's like drinkable yogurt, and it's packed with gut-friendly probiotics and also 11 grams of protein per cup, both of which will help keep you full longer. (I use the plain kind to avoid any added sugars; you can sub plain yogurt in a pinch.)
It also aids in the blending of your smoothie, which is a crucial part of smoothie building: Make every ingredient do the maximum amount of work for you.
After the kefir comes a bit of almond milk, which adds flavor and helps keep things liquefied. Then it's time for the produce. I primarily use fruit, but the addition of avocado adds some healthy fats into the mix. Adding greens like kale would make the smoothie more watery, but you certainly could; just cut back on one of the fruits.
My go-to fruits are bananas and strawberries because they have a lower water content than other fruits, and I like my smoothies thick. And cold. Freezing the produce the night before means you don't need ice, which will water down a smoothie, and that most of your prep work is done by the time you wake up.
The final key ingredient here is protein powder, which I have been curious about for a couple months but mostly scared of trying due to the sheer amount of ingredients many of these powders contain (often to mask the unpleasant taste of protein in its natural state).
I Googled around for cleaner options, and discovered pea protein, a dairy-free protein supplement that is actually a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids useful in muscle building. Two days later, I stumbled upon a container of unsweetened pea protein at Trader Joe's for $12, a relative steal. And the ingredient list? There's only one: pea protein.